ESR 5 Blog April 2021: Claude Nassar

Geometric Observations On Knowledge

With the third month of writing this blog, I found it hard to write about the process of my research as it expanded into multiple complexities, from theoretical explorations to bureaucratic negotiations. What I found myself thinking/writing about instead is the process of learning as part of the research network, and the ways I felt my knowledge expanding before slowing down in academic writing.

The following are a series of observations on knowledge that emerged during, from, or after, conversations with my partner, friends, colleagues, supervisors, or partner organisations. Accordingly, these paragraphs are not yet fully thought through as part of the larger body of my research, instead they are open reflections through embodied methods of thought, written in a style that conserves the speed of the ideas while avoiding, as much as possible, the elimination of the landscapes of possible significations that open up during moments of collective learning.

To be able to understand the ways knowledge emerges and expands, I propose the distinction between action, thought, and knowledge. The separation between action and thought is based on the nature of the movements that each produce. Namely, action is movement at the level of matter or historical movements, in the sense that the recording of movements of matter produces history. Thought is movement at the psychosocial level or pre-historical movements, in the sense that the recording of movements of thought produce memory. Knowledge on the other hand is making action and thought shareable. When defined as such, knowledge presupposes the recording of thought and action, which allows their multiplication and distribution in time and space.
Knowledge within the institutions of Western Modernity is based on an individual definition of truth; a notion of absolute truth that can only be conceived from an isolated individual position and associated with a linguistic representation. Truth is assigned to language as a representation of the world. Action is described linguistically and this description is then analysed, making linguistic knowledge not only the synthesis of two opposed sides of a binary dialectic, but also two opposed modes of being: thought and action. Truth is absolute and can only be challenged dialectically, where the equilibrium of the synthesis reestablishes the Truth as absolute. The divide between thinking and doing is reinforced by allowing doing only to become knowledge when it is represented linguistically, making language—the recording of thought—the only acceptable form of shareable knowledge. Thought is given primacy over action due to the need for the translation of action to thought and through thought to language, just as the individuality of the theorist is given the central role of the subject, while the lived, the micro-entanglements of the historical and the pre-historical, recedes to the periphery as the object of study. Language becomes sufficient to describe the world as a whole only when the description is produced through an individual thinking subject that floats above the doing objects of study in a neutral space of objective/subjective thought. The individuality of knowledge, its individual conception of truth, and the sufficiency of language in describing the world are three aspects of the same process of knowledge production within a colonial capitalist structure of governance; a mode of governance of the other through the analytic language of the expert.

This of course is an outdated view of the topic. Knowledge is always penetrated by practices of embodied knowledge. Knowledge that happens despite the institution, in the cracks between the structures of the institution, in the liveable shared spaces between the bodies of the institution. Knowledge that institutions appropriate as their creative core, translate to academic language and organise through their catalogs of individual experts. Embodied thinking is allowing thought to enter in reciprocal resonance with an activity that changes matter; between thought and action. Embodied thinking allows the emergence of micro-recordings both at the level of thinking and the level of doing. Allowing thinking to become doing, and doing to become thinking. By allowing the intermeshing of the pre-historical movement of thought with the historical movement of matter, embodied thinking becomes embodied knowledge by simultaneously creating both pre-historical and historical micro-recordings: memories and histories. Micro-recordings that vibrate between action and thought, at the same time changing matter and changing thought, producing memories and producing histories.

Instead of separating action, thought and knowledge, and translating the first into the other in order to produce the third, embodied thinking collapses action, thought, and knowledge in the liveable now. The thinking expert loses their position above the doing other and knowledge becomes something that could be acquired through academic means but could also be acquired by thinking through matter, thinking by changing matter whether on the micro/atomic level and on the macro/organismic level at once. By expanding beyond the individual definition of the self and the other, embodied knowledge skips the translations of different modes of recording necessary for individual academic knowledge to become communicable, to instead become shareable through simultaneous but different embodied experiences. Only then can academic knowledge truly break the limits of institutional disciplines, rather than simply employing multiple disciplines for the finality of linguistic knowledge. Knowledge is freed from its institutional environment to become a living process of thinking in between bodies, and language breaks out of its representational vocation to become one of the ways thought is actualised materially.

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